If you've lived in Tiruchi for a few years you'll know that the recent Government ruling that mandates helmet-wearing by all motorcycle riders and pillion riders is not new to the city. Six engineering diploma students from the Seshasayee Institute of Technology speak on why the city needed a second compulsion.

Pedestrians, bicyclists and two-wheeler riders, the major chunk of India's traffic, are what studies on road accidents classify as vulnerable road users. Directly exposed to the traffic unlike people who drive cars and other heavy vehicles, cyclists and motorcyclists come in direct contact with the impacting vehicle (in case of an accident) resulting in fatal injuries to the head. The fact that 80 per cent of accident victims who are admitted with head injuries in the city are motorists has triggered the re-enforcement of the helmet rule, which was first executed in 2009.

With the city police announcing the helmet rule almost 10 days before its enforcement, pavements across Tiruchi have sprouted makeshift helmet shops doing brisk business. “I'm not too sure that the people who turn up wearing helmets in the beginning will continue to wear them forever,” says a skeptical M. Mohamed Rafic, while R. Sharulatha wonders why our society needed rules that demanded we kept ourselves safe, toeing the existential note.

Unanimous that helmet-wearing would make the city's roads a safer place the discussion hovered around awareness initiatives that began at the school level, personal choices, problems with the helmet and the long-term effectiveness of such a rule.

Despite knowing that it could make all the difference between life and death people give up too quickly on the helmet, because the existing models are simply uncomfortable. If manufacturers can produce models that were light weight, had a better peripheral view, and holes for ventilation, I am sure that people will definitely continue wearing helmets making such rules less necessary. M. Murali, III Year, Diploma in Civil Engineering.

If the idea is to change how the society perceives road safety, then rules that mandate helmet-wearing alone won't do. Many people who drive two-wheelers do so without a license and are hence unaware of many of the basic traffic rules. The RTO should, besides cracking down on motorists without license, include a few questions on helmet safety in its license test. M. S. Bindhya, III Year, Diploma in Computer Science Engineering

Helmets might make us safer on the roads, but not without its own problems. When motorists start wearing helmets, especially the full face ones, they don't realise that they cannot depend on their peripheral vision to guide them while switching lanes or taking turns anymore. People must develop the habit of checking their side mirrors or helmets can cause their own set of accidents. M. Mohamed Rafic, III Year, Diploma in Mechanical Engineering

I think it's a good idea to make it compulsory for the pillion rider to wear the helmet too, because in an accident pillion riders get as injured as the rider, if not more. Most of the pillion riders here are women and it's understandable they might be hesitant to wear a helmet. The government needs to have special awareness programs targeted towards pillion riders. S. Anu, III Year, Diploma in Electronics and Communication Engineering

If the helmet came along with a bike's various extra fittings and complemented its style and design, then I think many youngsters would take to wearing the helmet. Buying it along with the bike is more likely to ensure that people have a helmet at hand, making them more willing to comply with such rules than someone who has to buy a new one. T. Vignesh, III Year, Diploma in Instrumentation and Control Engineering

Such enforcement drives need to be supported by awareness programs on the sidelines. The government should include road safety as a subject right from the school level. The students, besides growing up to be sensible drivers themselves, will also spread the awareness to their family and friends. We need to make the focus long-term, rather than occasional spurts in awareness and enforcements. R. Sharulatha, III Year, Diploma in Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Being the first polytechnic college in the country to be set up post-independence, the Seshasayee Institute of Technology is now in its diamond jubilee year. The institute, which was established by V. Seshasayee, who pioneered the supply of electricity in the erstwhile Madras Province, was the first to gain the autonomous status in the country as well.SIT, which boasts of alumni placed in high positions in various organisations around the country continues to be among the top choices for recruiters in the region like BHEL.

Keywords: road safety